Saudi women in new driving protest

Published Jun 22, 2011 06:28pm

Saudi Arabia has no formal ban on women driving. But as citizens must use only Saudi-issued licences in the country, and as these are issued only to men, women drivers are anathema. -Reuters Photo

RIYADH: Two Saudi women said they drove their cars on Wednesday in a new protest against a ban on women driving in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Their actions came in response to a call on the Internet for women in Riyadh to get behind the wheel, after a show of defiance on Friday in which 42 women took to the road.

Azza Shamassi, in her thirties, said she had driven her car Wednesday, just as she has done “every day since last Friday”, despite a harassing message stuck to the windscreen of her car.

The handwritten note read “Plz do not drive” on one side and carried an insult on the other, witnesses said. “This threat will not stop me,” Shamassi said.

Sara al-Khalidi also said she has been driving since Friday's protest, saying she had driven again on Wednesday before being stopped by a traffic policeman, who told her that police were looking for her and that she should drive home without stopping.

She said that “people encourage me when they've seen me driving these last few days”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed support for Saudi women who wish to drive.

No law forbids women from driving in Saudi Arabia but a religious edict stipulates that women must be driven by a male chauffeur or family member.

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